Impossible Foods to debut plant-based chicken nuggets as competition in alternative protein market heats up

US – Impossible Foods has announced plans to launch a plant-based chicken nugget, a few weeks after its competitor Beyond Meat launched its meat-free chicken tenders in more than 400 stores across the United States.  

Impossible Foods said its nuggets, which are soy-based and use sunflower oil, will first launch in restaurants and then roll out to grocery stores. 

According to the meat alternative startup, the chicken nuggets will not use any of Impossible Foods’ plant-based heme — the company’s ingredient that replicates the meaty taste of beef and pork. 

Impossible Food’s chicken nuggets are the latest high-profile launch in the plant-based chicken space and are happening at a time when the plant-based chicken segment is growing at a rate of 18%. 

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This according to SPINS is lower than the average for the whole plant-based meat category, but more than four times higher than chicken from animals, which has grown at a rate of 4%. 

Despite the chicken category of plant-based foods experiencing slower growth than other meat categories, it makes sense that plant-based and meat alternative companies are investing in it as chicken is the most widely consumed meat in the United States. 

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics cited by the National Chicken Council, the average U.S. consumer ate 97.6 pounds of chicken in 2020, while beef, which has been the major focus of the plant-based sector, has a per capita consumption of 58.8 pounds. 

But Impossible Food’s debut is an interesting timing, as so many new options are hitting the market at the same time while other chicken alternatives are undergoing big revamps and relaunches, including Kellogg’s MorningStar Farms Incogmeato brand and a new QSR push for Monde Nissin’s Quorn. 

Despite these launches forecasting heightened competition in the sector, Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown has said before that its major competitor is not Beyond Meat — or any other meat alternative company.  The company exists to displace the animal meat industry, he’s said.  

With consumers pushing for both healthier and more sustainable diets, Impossible Food’s goal of displacing animal protein seems within reach. 

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A recent study from DuPont Nutrition & Health found that 52% of U.S. consumers are eating more plant-based foods and they believe it makes them feel healthier. 

This year, Impossible Foods has already cut grocery store prices of its plant-based ground beef and burgers by 20% — moving its prices closer to being equivalent with animal-derived meat. 

The company also received a CN label for its Impossible Burgers and Sausage, making it easier for its products to be served in public school cafeterias, and contributing to its goal of ridding the market of animal-derived proteins. 

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